Summer 1999: The Top 10 Hits and More

My recap of the summer seasons from 30, 20, and 10 years ago continues with 1999. It was a banner year for film in general with many acclaimed features hitting theaters at the turn of the century.

If you missed my previous post recounting 1989, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/07/10/summer-1989-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

As with other look backs, I’ll give the top 10 highest earners along with other notable pics and some flops. Interestingly, the list begins at #10 with probably the most high profile misfire:

10. Wild Wild West

Domestic Gross: $113 million

The July 4th holiday weekend had literally become reserved space for Will Smith. Independence Day in 1996 and Men in Black the following year both came out in that frame and ended up as their summer’s biggest blockbusters. This update of a 1960s TV series cast the Fresh Prince with Kevin Kline and reunited him with MIB director Barry Sonnenfeld. Critics and audiences weren’t impressed.

9. Notting Hill

Domestic Gross: $116 million

Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant were a rom com match in heaven with this well reviewed pic from the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Our lead actress isn’t finished yet…

8. The Blair Witch Project

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Truly a phenomenon upon release, this handheld camera indie supernatural horror tale was made for a reported $60,000. Many audience members thought it was a real documentary and it scared up nearly $250 million worldwide and spawned two lesser regarded follow-ups.

7. Runaway Bride

Domestic Gross: $152 million

I told you we weren’t done with Julia Roberts. This rom com reunited her with her Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall and costar Richard Gere. It might not have captured the acclaim of that flick, but it made plenty of cash.

6. The Mummy

Domestic Gross: $155 million

Loosely updating the 1932 classic, The Mummy managed to turn Brendan Fraser into a temporary action star. Two sequels followed and a spin-off (The Scorpion King) that turned Dwayne Johnson into an action hero.

5. Big Daddy

Domestic Gross: $163 million

20 summers ago marked the height of Adam Sandler’s box office potency. Big Daddy remains his biggest live action grosser of all time.

4. Tarzan

Domestic Gross: $171 million

Disney was still knocking traditional animated hits out summer after summer. Tarzan managed to nab Phil Collins an Oscar for a song contribution.

3. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Domestic Gross: $206 million

The original Powers came out two summers prior. While it performed decently in theaters, it became a massive hit with its home video release. Due to that, this sequel made more in its opening weekend than part 1 achieved in its entire theatrical run. A third edition arrived in 2002.

2. The Sixth Sense

Domestic Gross: $293 million

An unexpected smash, this is the movie that introduced the world to M. Night Shyamalan and the line “I see dead people”. Bruce Willis didn’t get an Oscar nod, but the picture itself did. So too did Shyamalan’s direction, screenplay, and the supporting performances of Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette.

1. Star Wars: Episode 1The Phantom Menace

Domestic Gross: $431 million

Its reputation certainly hasn’t grown through the years, but George Lucas’s return to the cherished franchise after 16 years easily ruled the summer. We’re still haunted by Jar Jar two decades later.

And now more some other notable titles from the ‘99 season:

American Pie

Domestic Gross: $102 million

The raunchy teen comedy was a surprise smash that introduced us to a new group of young actors and spawned three theatrical sequels and four direct to DVD sequels.

The Haunting

Domestic Gross: $91 million

Jan de Bont followed up mega hits Speed and Twister with this critically unappreciated remake of The Haunting of Hill House. It didn’t reach the heights of those blockbusters, but came close to the century mark domestically.

Deep Blue Sea

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Renny Harlin’s tale involving sharks that could potentially cure Alzheimer’s (yes it’s absurd), Sea is best known for a killer death scene involving Samuel L. Jackson.

The Thomas Crown Affair

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Arriving smack dab in the middle of his Bond run, this remake of Steve McQueen’s heist film was a solid midsize performer.

Bowfinger

Domestic Gross: $66 million

The box office grosses were decent, but Bowfinger gave us a satisfying pairing of two comedic legends in Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin.

Eyes Wide Shut

Domestic Gross: $55 million

The swan song of Stanley Kubrick (who died shortly before release), this dreamlike sexual drama with then married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman polarized audiences and critics.

South ParkBigger, Longer and Uncut

Domestic Gross: $52 million

The landmark Comedy Central show from Trey Parker and Matt Stone got the big screen treatment and translated well to the multiplex, even nabbing an Oscar nod for Best Original Song (“Blame Canada”).

The Iron Giant

Domestic Gross: $23 million

A commercial failure at the time, this animated pic marked the debut of Brad Bird who went onto helm Pixar classics. Its reputation has grown significantly in time.

Now… let’s recount some flops:

Mickey Blue Eyes

Domestic Gross: $33 million

Hugh Grant had a $100 million plus earner with Notting Hill, but this mob themed comedy was not a hit.

Mystery Men

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Ben Stiller had the previous summer’s largest comedy with There’s Something About Mary. This failed superhero spoof didn’t even make half its budget back stateside.

The Astronaut’s Wife

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This Johnny Depp sci fi thriller is not a title discussed often in his filmography or Charlize Theron’s. There’s a reason.

Dudley DoRight

Domestic Gross: $9 million

The Mummy provided Brendan Fraser with a franchise. This cartoon remake couldn’t hit double digits.

And that wraps my recap! Look for 2009 on the blog shortly…

Mission: Impossible – Fallout Movie Review

The Mission: Impossible franchise has now reached its sixth feature and its 22nd year of existence, providing the seemingly ageless Tom Cruise with a hit making series that continues to deliver. That’s a rather remarkable accomplishment and Fallout belongs in the upper echelons in terms of bang for your buck entertainment.

Truth be told, there’s been no total dog yet in the Mission sagas. My one minor complaint about its predecessor, 2015’s Rogue Nation, was its lack of directorial vision. Christopher McQuarrie and his large squad of tech and stunt wizards pulled off some impressive action sequences in that picture. However, unlike the previous four pics, it didn’t feel quite as distinctive. Part 1 was certainly a Brian De Palma experience and the first sequel was all kinds of John Woo (for occasionally better and more for the worse). Same goes for J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird in the next ones (Ghost Protocol still stands as my personal favorite).

McQuarrie is the first filmmaker to return in the director’s chair. I must admit that maybe I just didn’t fully recognize his stamp on the series the first time around. These latest missions are all about spectacle and not really concerned with melding the mayhem to its maker’s vision. In Fallout, that’s pretty much perfectly OK even more so than in Rogue. That’s because the team of people making the action are the best at it. We’ve seen plenty of car chases, helicopter battles, and bathroom brawls in our time. This franchise excels at it in ways few others do.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF squad (including Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) pick up two years after the events of the fifth installment. Learned Mission watchers know the plot will likely be convoluted and a secondary consideration. That’s true here, but let’s go over the basics. We have lost plutonium that IMF must find or risk nuclear attack. Part 5’s villain (Sean Harris) is involved. Ethan is forced to partner with a bulky CIA agent (Henry Cavill). MI6 agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) from Rogue resurfaces. She continues to be one of Hunt’s more interesting partners. And the short-lived wedded bliss that we witnessed Ethan in during part 3 with Michelle Monaghan becomes a focal point. Oh… and there’s plenty of double crosses. And those masks. Fallout also features the most satisfying use of a CNN anchor ever committed to film.

Of course, all of this leads to Ethan globe-trotting from London to Paris to Kashmir. And the song remains the same: our hero is the only one capable of figuring out how to keep the world from crumbling. What’s often startling is just how much care is expended in creating the impossible situations he finds himself in. McQuarrie’s biggest contribution may just be the go for broke style vibe to Ethan’s dangerous exploits. As always, Cruise is a more than willing subject and he even broke his ankle during one stunt.

Cruise and McQuarrie simply refuse to allow Mission to coast on auto pilot. The franchise continues to come up with new and exciting ways to put our mega star in peril. Six films in, that is quite a feat.

***1/2 (out of four)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout Box Office Prediction

Now in its 22nd year of existence, Tom Cruise’s signature franchise keeps rolling along as Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth offering in the series debuts stateside next weekend. Christopher McQuarrie is the first director to come back behind the camera (he made 2015’s predecessor Rogue Nation) for repeat work after Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird made their stand-alone entries. Returning cast members from previous installments include Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin. Newcomers include Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett.

The buzz for Fallout indicates it could be a high mark in the long running franchise. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 93% with some critics claiming it’s the best of the bunch thus far. It’s particularly being praised for its action scenes and stunt work (which actually caused its mega-watt star to break an ankle on set). Even with the generous helping of sequels and genre pics out there (Skyscraper will be in its third weekend of release with The Equalizer 2 in its second), this series seems to be going strong.

In order to achieve the largest opening of all the M:I features, Fallout would need to top the $57 million achieved 18 years ago by part 2. Rogue Nation came close three summers ago with $55 million. I believe this should have enough juice to do so with a low to mid 60s gross.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout opening weekend prediction: $63.6 million

For my Teen Titans Go! To the Movies prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/18/teen-titans-go-to-the-movies-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Incredibles 2

This should come as no surprise, but reviews out today for Incredibles 2 (out Friday) are pretty encouraging. The sequel from Pixar/Disney arrives 14 years after the original, which stands as one of the vaunted studio’s high marks. The current Rotten Tomatoes score for part 2 stands at 97%.

As I would with any Pixar offering, we turn to its Oscar viability and that takes us on a trip down memory lane. The Best Animated Feature category at the Academy Awards has been around since 2001. That means the first three Pixar tales (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2) existed in a time when the category did not. I would say all three would have been nominated had the race been around (and the Toy stories likely both would have been victorious).

Since 2001, Pixar pics have won 9 times and they are as follows:

2003: Finding Nemo

2004: The Incredibles

2007: Ratatouille

2008: Wall-E

2009: Up

2010: Toy Story 3

2012: Brave

2015: Inside Out

2017: Coco

There have been two occasions where a Pixar movie was nominated and lost. In 2001, Monsters Inc. couldn’t get over Shrek. In 2006, Happy Feet took the prize over Cars. 

Five Pixar features have failed to garner a nomination. Four were sequels. The only outlier is 2015’s The Good Dinosaur. The others:

2011: Cars 2

2013: Monsters University

2016: Finding Dory

2017: Cars 3

Which brings us back to Incredibles 2. So where does this stand? Note that this sequel is the only one to a predecessor that won before. And seeing that early reviews are overwhelmingly glowing (even though some say it doesn’t match #1), I’ll predict this Pixar sequels makes the final five come next year. The director, Brad Bird, is also responsible for two of the Pixar statues (The Incredibles and Ratatouille). There will certainly be competition (Isle of Dogs was already released and seems assured a spot) and its possibility to win is still a giant question mark. Yet these superheroes seem primed for a return engagement down the red carpet.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Incredibles 2 Box Office Prediction

Disney/Pixar is back on the summer scene as Incredibles 2 blasts into theaters next weekend. The superhero comedy sequel is the follow-up to the studio’s sixth blockbuster that opened in November 2004. Fourteen years later, this is Pixar’s 20th assured mega grosser. Brad Bird, who made the original, is back in the director’s seat after shepherding live-action pics Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland. Returning voices from the original cast include Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, and John Ratzenberger. Fresh voices for part 2 include Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Isabella Rossellini, and Sophia Bush.

The question mark here is not whether Incredibles 2 is another huge hit for Pixar (it will be). Rather, the question is whether it sets the all-time opening record for the Mouse Factory’s multi-billion dollar subsidiary. In order to do so, it would need to surpass the current one held by 2016’s Finding Dory. That sequel earned $135 million in the same weekend two summers ago.

For some context, the predecessor to Dory (2003’s Finding Nemo) made $70 million out of the gate with an eventual gross of $339 million. As for the first Incredibles? It did exactly the same in its first weekend ($70 million) and went on to earn $261 million domestically. Of course, most Pixar titles take on long shelf lives and introduce themselves to a new generation of youngsters. The Incredibles is no exception and stands as one of the most appreciated studio offerings.

I see no reason why Incredibles 2 wouldn’t perform very similarly to Dory. That said, I’m reluctant to project that it will get to $150 million plus or anything in that stratosphere. I’ll say this just manages to achieve a personal Pixar high. In doing so, just as Nemo and Incredibles got to the same number in weekend 1, so essentially will the sequels.

Incredibles 2 opening weekend prediction: $138.1 million

For my Tag prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/05/tag-box-office-prediction/

For my Superfly prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/07/superfly-box-office-prediction/

Tomorrowland Movie Review

At one moment in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, one of the lead characters exclaims, “Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” It’s a line that Disney would surely like us to follow with this earnest, visually pleasing, sometimes preachy and totally uneven tale sprung from the minds of Bird and cowriter Damon Lindelof. There is a lot to admire about Tomorrowland and seeing an original picture presented with such a big budget and lots of tech wizardry is among them. Yet it’s hard to love it. Tomorrowland is mainly centered on optimism and it doesn’t hesitate to occasionally lecture us about a generation that dared to stop dreaming, according to its filmmakers. This is primarily centered on lack of focus with the space program and loss of interest in advancing science. Here we have a mega budget sci fi tale with a point of view and a supremely talented director behind the camera to tell it. There are moments during Tomorrowland that left me greatly optimistic for where the story would go to next and individual sequences that were flat out terrific. The faded optimism came with a plot that never really pays off and a third act that doesn’t match up with the first two. It results in being Bird’s least satisfying overall experience, though he’s set quite a bar with The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

The movie begins with young Frank Walker at the World’s Fair in New York circa 1964. He’s invented a jetpack that sadly doesn’t fly. Nevertheless, his unbridled enthusiasm in science draws the attention of Athena (Raffie Cassidy), a young girl who gives him a pin emblazoned with a big T. Frank soon discovers that this pin transports him to Tomorrowland, a land many dimensions away that looks quite futuristic. We soon learn this is a place where dreamers can go to dream and invent things to keep the future rolling along without the interference of Earthly distractions like money and politics. Turns out Athena is no little girl and she’s a programmed robot tasked with finding those special people to populate Tomorrowland.

When the story switches to present day, Athena’s new pupil is Casey (Britt Robertson), an energetic and endlessly curious teen whose dad (Tim McGraw) is a NASA engineer who doesn’t get much work. She gets a pin as well, but her journey isn’t an easy one. It includes meeting a grown up Frank (George Clooney), whose feelings on Tomorrowland have changed through the years and not in a positive way. They may be well founded as Tomorrowland’s leader David Nix (Hugh Laurie) has a rather warped view on us Earth folk.

For a picture stressing the virtue of the idea behind Tomorrowland, we don’t spend much time there. Most of the action is set back on this planet and a lot of what we see is quite entertaining. Raffie Cassidy has the most challenging role of all and she gives a winning performance. Robertson and Clooney may be stars and they are both just fine, but Cassidy’s butt kicking robo girl steals the show. A scene in a hobby shop with Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn and a sequence in which the Eiffel Tower is harboring an underground rocket ship are particular highlights.

As I stated, a lot to admire. However, by the time Laurie’s Nix is essentially preaching the plot to us in the third act, I felt a little underwhelmed. I realize this Utopias world he spoke of didn’t get explored much here. And while lessons about destroying the planet are important, it’s not like we haven’t heard it all before. I still would recommend making this trip because there is enough to like, but temper that optimism a little perhaps.

*** (out of four)

Tomorrowland Box Office Prediction

Disney is hoping that over the Memorial Day weekend, a wide swath of moviegoers will choose to make the trip to Tomorrowland. The sci fi adventure opens Friday with a reported $190 million budget and is directed by Brad Bird, who made Pixar classics The Incredibles and Ratatouille and had a successful debut in live action with 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Bird shares screenplay credit with Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost. George Clooney headlines a cast that features Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Kathryn Hahn, Tim McGraw and Judy Greer.

The studio has been successful in keeping the plot details of Tomorrowland closely under wraps and it could succeed in creating a curiosity factor among audiences. The pic looks to appeal to family audiences and sci fi lovers. The Memorial Day release indicates confidence from Disney. One must wonder, however, if all the secrecy could keep some away since most summer releases are sequels and reboots based on known properties.

I could envision Tomorrowland opening in a similar fashion to Super 8, which premiered four summers ago to $35 million. Due to its four day holiday rollout, I’ll say it manages to climb a bit higher than that, albeit with one more day included in the grosses.

Tomorrowland opening weekend prediction: $33.4 million (Friday to Sunday prediction), $44.6 million (Friday to Monday prediction)

For my Poltergeist prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/05/16/poltergeist-box-office-prediction/